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Budget Proposal Makes Key Investments, But Still Falls Short

On Wednesday, President Obama released his long-awaited budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. Typically, the President's budget is released in February. This year, it was pushed back as he and Congress addressed the recent budget sequestration - arbitrary and indiscriminate cuts enacted through the Budget Control Act and the ongoing tug of war to fund the federal government. The President's budget ends sequestration, outlining proposals to increase revenues from high-income earners, but it also reduces federal funding to support low-income working families and communities. With so many already struggling, those proposed reductions have advocates concerned.

Still, the President's commitment to education, research, and infrastructure is certainly reflected in the FY 2014 budget. In addition to making unprecedented investments in early learning, the budget acknowledges investments for disadvantaged and disconnected youth. In this tough political and economic climate, the President's budget proposes:

  • Includes $12.5 billion for the Pathways Back to Work Fund, including $2.5 billion for summer and year-round employment for youth and $10 billion for subsidized jobs for low-income adults. The proposed funding for the Pathways Back to Work will require Congress to act, reintroduce and pass bills previously introduced.
  • $25 million to strengthen and identify administrative barriers in federal programs serving disconnected youth through cross-agency collaboration among the Departments of Labor, Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services. Of those funds, $10 million is dedicated to building effective interventions for disconnected youth through the Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation Fund, while another $10 million will go to the Fund for the Improvement of Education. And consistent with last year's proposal, the FY 2014 budget also requests authority to implement Performance Partnerships Pilots, which would enhance administrative flexibility to improve outcomes and accountability for disconnected youth.
  • An $80 million increase in Workforce Investment Act formula grant programs "to support the increase in the statewide reserve allocation from 5 to 7.5 percent without reducing the amount of funding allocated to local areas." These funds support a wide variety of job training efforts at the state-level, including programs for youth.
  • Maintaining funding for the Department of Labor's YouthBuild program at $79.6 million, and further continuing the Administration's commitment to improving and reforming the Job Corps program to better serve and improve outcomes for disconnected and disadvantaged youth.
  • $215 million for Investing in Innovation (i3), an increase of $66 million, to test and evaluate new ideas and scale up the most effective approaches to improve outcomes in high-need areas and among high-needs students.
  • $1.1 billion for a reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) program to strengthen alignment among secondary and postsecondary CTE programs, as well as business and industry, and provide competitive funding to develop, validate, and scale up effective practices, promoting innovation and reform in CTE. The $100 million competitive CTE innovation fund includes a $10 million set-aside for "Pay-for-Success" projects, which are designed to help disconnected youth access pathways to high-skill, high-wage jobs.

While we are encouraged by the acknowledgment of youth-and in particular those young people that are idle and detached from school and work-in the President's budget, these investments are only a drop in the bucket. Over the last decade, youth job training has suffered $1 billion in cuts. Youth and young adults continue to face the worse jobs prospects since the Great Depression, with little progress having been made since our recent recession ended. Today, one in four African Americans between ages 18 and 24 is looking for a job, but cannot find one, as are more than one in seven Hispanic young adults. Meanwhile, 6.7 million youth are neither employed nor in school.

What we need is bold action and federal investment equal to these employment and education challenges. Without it, we risk losing a generation.

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